Giovanni Ceccarelli was born in Fabriano, Italy.
He started playing piano at seven years-old, then at thirteen he turned on to jazz. He received the basics of piano by studying with Anna Trontino and Nedda Spotti. Giovanni taught himself how to improvise, later on he specialized by studying jazz with pianists Eddie Wied, Rita Marcotulli, Mike Melillo, Franco D’Andrea, Stefano Battaglia, and Enrico Pieranunzi, with arrangers Bruno Tommaso and Giancarlo Gazzani, with masters Dave Liebman and Jack Walrath. In the early 2000’s he studied North Indian music theory and tablas with Aki Montoya.
Giovanni started playing professionally in the Rome jazz scene, where he lived for ten years, acquiring a deep knowledge of the standards’ repertoire by performing with numerous soloists and ensembles. As a sideman and as a trio with bassists Mauro Battisti, Stefano Cantarano, and Giordano Pietroni and with drummers Carlo Battisti, Massimo Manzi, and Francesco Vitale he performed in the most prominent jazz venues in Italy, Europe, and the Middle East with Tony Scott, Benny Golson, Enrico Rava, Paolo Fresu, Bob Wilber, Rosario Giuliani, Max Ionata, Luca Velotti, Gianni Basso, Garrison Fewell, Rosario Bonaccorso, Gianni Coscia, Fabrizio Bosso, Emanuele Cisi, Pietro Tonolo, Ettore Fioravanti, Massimo Nunzi, Charles Davis, Manu Katché, Marco Tamburini, Tiziano Tononi, Carlo Atti, Antonello Salis, John Stowell, Larry Smith, Joe Magnarelli, Jim Snidero, Attilio Zanchi, Gianni Cazzola, Gianluca Petrella, Massimo Moriconi, Stefano “Cocco” Cantini, Nicola Stilo.
Giovanni recorded three albums playing standards with great jazz soloists Massimo Urbani – “The Nights Of The Beuscher” (Philology, 2009) – and Lee Konitz – “At The New Mississippi Jazz Club” (Philology, 2000) and “Waxin’ in Camerino” (Philology, 2011). His first release as a co-leader – “The Street Dancer” (Philology, 1998), a piano duo with mentor Eddie Wied – was dedicated to the standards’ repertoire, too.
Giovanni is a very demanded pianist for jazz singers, due to his active listening, deep sound, and rich harmonic palette. He was a steady member in vocalists Tiziana Ghiglioni and Ada Montellanico‘s groups, performing and recording with them the American and Italian songbooks – albums “The Essential Ellington” and “Tenco In Jazz” with Ghiglioni, “Suoni Modulanti” and “Omaggio a Billie Holiday” with Montellanico. He also played and recorded with great vocalists Nancy King, Mark Murphy, Giacomo Gates, David Linx, Maria Pia De Vito, and Camille Bertault.
A prolific and inspired composer with an immediately recognizable style as a pianist, Giovanni has released some remarkable recordings, as a leader or co-leader, presenting his own compositions. He co-signed songs with Sandra Cartolari, which were released in her album “Twolips” (1999). While living in Paris, Damascus, Beirut, and back to Paris, he released “Feedin’ Inner Urges” (2009) with vocalist Fabrizia Barresi, “Daydreamin’” (2010), acclaimed albums “Météores” (Bonsaï Music, 2011) – with long-time music collaborators Ferruccio Spinetti and Francesco Petreni – and “Mare Calmo” (2015) with bandoneon star Daniele di Bonaventura, “Canto” (2019) with saxophonist Marcello Allulli. Pagine Vere with Michela Lombardi and Luca Falomi focuses on songs written by the pianist and the vocalist. Their album is due to be released in 2021.
Giovanni’s solo performances present a repertoire of original compositions on piano and the lyrical sound of clavietta. Together with humanitarian association Life4Syria he co-organized numerous Concerts for Syria featuring a solo performance with the participation of guest artists. Giovanni’s solos were also featured at benefit concerts supporting Italian regions which were struck by earthquakes.
A curious and open-minded musician, Giovanni has a passion and strong interest in Brazilian music. In 2009 he and Spinetti formed group InventaRio, also starring Petreni and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Dadi. Their acclaimed album “InventaRio” (My Favorite Records, 2010) featured Brazilian star Marisa Monte and Italian artists Petra Magoni and Pacifico. “InventaRio Incontra Ivan Lins” (Blue Note/Biscoito Fino, 2012), a tribute to the music of Ivan Lins entirely recorded and arranged with the Brazilian master, was nominated as Best MPB Album at the Latin Grammy Awards. It stars some outstanding artists from Brazil and Italy including Chico Buarque, Vinicius Cántuaria, Maria Gadú, Vanessa da Mata, Tosca, Samuele Bersani, Fausto Mesolella, and Chiara Civello. Giovanni continues his collaboration with Ivan Lins, occasionally touring with his group and as a duo. With di Bonaventura he released “Eu Te Amo – The Music Of Tom Jobim” with the participation of great cellist and arranger Jaques Morelenbaum. He recorded album “Velho Continente” with singer-songwriter Claudia Carvalho.
Along his career, Giovanni has performed all over the world and recorded more than fifty records, collaborating with jazz soloists and composers Marcello Sebastiani, Piero Delle Monache, Toni Germani, Enrico Ghelardi, Piercarlo Salvia, Fabrizio Cecca, Antonello Sorrentino, Elvio Ghigliordini, and Enrico Bracco. He is part of Mauro Gargano‘s new group whose album “Nuages” will be released in November.
Beyond jazz, Brazil, and composing, Giovanni has taken part in projects merging music with poetry in collaboration with Italian great actors Arnoldo Foà – “I Canti Di Leopardi” (Micromega, 1999) – and Alessandro Haber, poetess Francesca Merloni – “Elice” (2007) –, and theater director Federica Altieri. Giovanni has collaborated with visual artist Blas Gimeno Ribelles and he has been a steady member of cross-over ensemble Trioakì featuring jazz master Tony Scott. As a soloist and sideman he was featured in recordings by avant-pop ensemble Gnu Quartet, percussion orchestra Bandão, Cuban artist Mayto Torres, acoustic fusion group Agorà, and singer-songwriter Paolo Gerbella. Giovanni has given several concerts with pop star vocalist Amii Stewart. He currently collaborates with Maroccan singer Sophia Charaï. As a duo with Allulli, he performs live soundtracks to silent movies, presenting a repertoire of original music.
Musical direction and arranging is another important facet in Giovanni’s career. Album “Animantiga” by Stéphane Casalta and the late Roberta Alloisio was nominated at Italian awards Targhe Tenco and Premio Loano. This album and “Occhi” by Italian crooner Francesco Giannelli featured Giovanni as arranger and musical director.
Giovanni is a devoted and active music educator, giving lessons, workshops, masterclasses, conferences in jazz piano, improvisation, arranging, composing, and ensemble playing on internet and around the world. For fifteen years he was the president of cultural association InJazz, organizing and directing jazz clinics in Italy.
Giovanni Ceccarelli is today a pianist, composer, and arranger with a distinct style, leading and co-leading his own projects and collaborating internationally with artists and groups. His upcoming album release is a tribute to the late, great composer Ennio Morricone. “More Morricone” (Bonsaï Music, 2020) is co-signed with Spinetti and features vocalist Chrystel Wautier.
Photo credits: Vanessa Van Renterghem, Pilar Chozas, Ulisse Cipriani, Carlo Pieroni, Angelo Trani, Maurizio Machella, ProMu, Luigi Fogliati, Pierre Darmon.